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Parasiliti: Hammond does respectable job in a tough situation

July 02, 2012|By BOB PARASILITI | bobp@herald-mail.com
  • Bob Parasiliti
Bob Parasiliti

Little League parents would have made Rodney Dangerfield cringe.

They would be the worst nightmare for the late, great comedian, especially if part of his schtick missed the mark.

“Tough crowd,” he would utter. “I get no respect.”

When it comes to Little League — more specifically all-star tournament season — there is very little respect to be handed out.

That’s what makes the old-school style of people like Larry Hammond so refreshing.

Hammond is the Maryland District 1 Little League administrator, clearly a Dangerfield-esque position. He and his staff are the guys in yellow shirts who are on site at every Little League tournament game, ready to make snap decisions to ensure that every game moves along smoothly, fairly and by the rule book.

Many times, though, everyone isn’t always in agreement.

Hammond’s ability was put to the test on Friday, proving why he gets the imaginary big bucks in his volunteer job.

Hammond was the Grand Poobah for the Clear Spring at West End game in the 10-11 tournament’s championship round.

West End would earn a trip to the state tournament with a win. For Clear Spring, the chance to force a one-game, winner-take-all final the next day was at stake.

Right from the start, circumstances required a firm hand.

First, the game was delayed by 40 minutes, a decision made to allow some of the day’s 100-degree heat to pass.

Little did anyone know that safety measure would become a key in determining the game’s outcome.

West End had an 8-1 lead heading into the bottom of the sixth inning. Clear Spring rallied for one run and had two runners on base, but was down to its final out in an effort to stave off elimination.

Then, a bolt of lightning caught an umpire’s attention, causing an immediate 30-minute suspension of the game.

The storm swirled around the area for 45 minutes. Hammond spent the entire time looking like George Washington standing on the front of a rowboat going across the Potomac. He had one foot on the first-base line and stared intently over the left-field fence, while trying to read the storm.

He didn’t want this championship game to end this way, basically with a hung jury. Hammond wanted to make sure each team had an equal chance to win. He also was fighting to give Clear Spring every chance to fight to the death.

After all, it was only fair. Opportunity and integrity are just two of the values programs like Little League try to teach.

Suddenly, at 9:35 p.m., a tornado warning was announced. Suddenly, it was a decision of public safety instead of the outcome of a game.

Hammond reluctantly ended his holdout, like many people wanted long before his hand was forced.

He went over and showed that integrity by shaking hands with Clear Spring’s coaching staff and then each Clear Spring player. He congratulated them on their play and explained to them how he lost a standoff with Mother Nature.

It was a nice way of saying West End would be awarded the championship.

That tasked visibly pained Hammond because he had shown a belief that every player should have a chance to prove himself. They shouldn’t lose a technicality.

Then, Hammond quickly moved over to West End, shook hands again and handed the team the championship banner for a quick celebration.

It’s difficult to summarize Hammond’s day. Maybe the best overall statement came in a non-related conversation about umpiring.

“In most cases, you are only going to make half the people happy. If you do that, you had a great day.”

Hammond tries to make everyone happy, which is impossible to do. He serves three major factions — the young players, the coaches and, most importantly, the game.

He protects what Little League baseball is supposed to be about: Good clean competition among children — yes, children — who are just learning the game while experiencing important values that will help guide their futures.

That isn’t just winning and losing. It’s also a large dose of honor, integrity and — yes — respect.

Bob Parasiliti is a staff writer for The Herald-Mail. He can be reached at 301-791-7358 or by email at bobp@herald-mail.com.

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